Supreme Court directs CBI to investigate Saradha chit fund scam, Mamata shrugs it off

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: May 10 2014, 02:26am hrs
Chit FundsSupreme Court has ordered a CBI inquiry into multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam. (Reuters)
In a jolt to Mamata Banerjee-government in West Bengal, the Supreme Courttodayordered CBI inquiry into the multi-crore Saradha scam and similar cases in the state. The court also asked the CBI to investigate chit fund-related scam cases in Orissa and other states including Tripura and Assam.

A bench led by Justice T S Thakur said that the aspects of inter-state ramifications and the larger conspiracy angle required an in- depth probe by the premier investigative agency.

The bench asked the CBI to carry out further investigation wherever required. It directed the state agencies to assist the CBI in its probe.

It said regulators in the state governments failed to check the spread of the scam.

In case of West Bengal, the SC was hearing two PILs - one filed by advocates Pratim Kumar Singha Ray and Abu Abbasuddin, and another by advocate Subrata Chattoraj, seeking a CBI enquiry into the scam, which is being opposed by the state. The TMC government had alleged "political motivation" behind the demand.

West Bengal had told the court that there was no need for a CBI probe as an ongoing probe by a special investigation team had made substantial progress. A division bench of Calcutta High Court had said last year there was no need for a CBI probe into the Saradha case.

Social activist Alok Jena filed a similar plea for CBI inquiry in Orissa. At the fag end of the hearing, Orissa government had conceded that the court may direct CBI inquiry in view of the sweep of the scam beyond the state.

The Indian Express had first reported that the scale of the scam was much larger in Orissa.163 chit fund firms have collected around Rs 4,600 crore by defrauding the people in Orissa whereas the chit fund scam in West Bengal is estimated at Rs 2,460 crore. Moreover, at least 10 lakh families, mostly belonging to the low-income group, have been affected by the scam in Orissa.

The court had last month reserved its judgement on the separate PILs.

Mamata Banerjee's party has been under immense pressure as some of the TMC leaders have come under the scanner of Enforcement Directorate (ED) recently for their alleged links with Saradha. ED, which is probing the matter, has arrested Saradha promoter Sudipta Sen's second wife and son for alleged money laundering. Sen and suspended Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh are already behind the bars in connection with the scam.

What does it matter to me Mamata on SC order of CBI probe into Saradha scam

Berhampore: With the Supreme Court ordering a CBI inquiry into Saradha chit fund scam two days ahead of the last round of polling in Lok Sabha elections, Mamata Banerjee today said it did not matter to her.

"They are thinking that the CBI enquiry was given just two days before before the election. What does it matter to me" the Trinamool Congress chief said referring to the opposition parties training their guns on her party over the Saradha scam.

"Truth will come out. Fire cannot be covered with ashes. They have said whatever they wanted to", she said.

CBI had not been able to arrest the accused in the Netai killing of nine people in West Midnapore district in February 2011 but it was the state CID which could do so, she said.

The opposition has alleged Trinamool Congress had close links with Sudipto Sen, chairman of the bust Saradha Group.

Stating that chit funds were governed by the Centre and not the state, Banerjee, the Chief Minister, said "who governs chit funds. It is not under the state government but the central government.

"Why did you sleep for 30 years This was our complaint. Why did you keep silent during CPI(M) rule

"I have been saved. They will have to return the money. I was returning the money to the poor from the government fund," she said referring to the Shyamal Sen Commission set up by her government to pay defrauded investors.

Dwelling on action taken by her government in the ponzi scam, she said arrests were made and charge-sheets issued in 286 cases, while the commission set up to refund defrauded investors returned money to four lakh investors and another 2.5 lakh would be refunded.

Banerjee, who has promised a new law to crack down on ponzi firms, said an anti-chit fund bill which was passed in the state assembly was not being cleared by the Centre for the last three years.

She said her government wanted to bring an ordinance to protect investors but first the Centre must withdraw the current law.

Banerjee also alleged the previous Left Front government had allowed ponzi companies to flourish in West Bengal since 980s.

Meanwhile, welcoming the CBI inquiry, TMC General Secretary Mukul Roy told an election meeting at Krishnanagar in Nadia district that if links of the party with the scam was proved, then it would leave the political scenario.

He also said there could be an inquiry by the Interpol.

Saradha order a personal political defeat for Mamata: Cong

Kolkata: Welcoming the Supreme Court order directing CBI to probe the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam, the Congress today described it as a "personal political defeat" of Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee while the BJP said that the TMC stood "badly exposed".

"The Supreme Court verdict is a personal political loss of Mamata Banerjee, as she was opposed to a CBI inquiry. Her mask as the symbol of honesty has come out. The people of Bengal will give her a befitting reply," State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said.

Chowdhury, also a Union minister said, "She from the very beginning was opposed to the CBI inquiry even as several people have committed suicide and lakhs have been duped by Saradha and other chit fund companies."

"She was trying to fool the people, but the CBI inquiry will bring out the truth and will book those culprits who this Trinamool regime was trying to save," he said.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the Supreme Court verdict directing a CBI probe into the Saradha ponzi scam was "historic".

"It is welcome and historic that a CBI probe has been allowed by the Supreme Court in response to several PILs and a move which Congress party had been supporting from the beginning," he said.

BJP National spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said it was the worst kind of scam with the "connivance and blessings of the government of the day".

"We welcome the Supreme Court order. As far as Saradha is concerned, TMC is badly exposed," he said.

Asking why the TMC government was opposed to the CBI probe till the last moment, Javadekar said, "Because they are afraid of their nexus getting exposed. There is a clear nexus between the leaders and the government and this Saradha. People are defrauded and you are benefited. That's the quid pro quo."

"It's a loot of the people. TMC talks of the poor but here the poor have been looted," the BJP leader said.

CPI(M) West Bengal secretary Biman Bose said his party had been voicing the demand for a CBI inquiry ever since the scandal surfaced and expressed happiness over the apex court order.

Bose made some suggestions, saying "there should be an investigation based on the footage where it was shown that certain leaders were doing publicity for Saradha. The investigation should also be conducted into the close relationship between the Trinamool Congress and Saradha chit fund company."

Asked about the allegation levelled by the TMC that chit funds had mushroomed during Left Front regime, Bose said, "These things don't work anymore. We have been saying this for a long time that if there is a CBI inquiry and if our leaders are found guilty, the law should take its own course."